New music festival two-steps into Georgetown with classic and cutting-edge country stars
Country is one of the widest and most misunderstood genres in popular music. Even in Texas, where fans don’t have to look for a way into its traditions as they would in many other areas, the genre is sharply divided — mostly between “old” and “new” country. Much to the excitement and chagrin of many country fans on one side or the other, artists like Orville Peck and Lil Nas X have made huge strides in expanding the bounds genre, which makes headlines every year that it continues to grow its market share.
Festivals can lean into that division, or take a step (or two) forward. Two Step Inn, a new music festival in the scenic Austin suburb of Georgetown, is on that new frontier, with an eclectic lineup that displays a deep devotion to country in old, new, and fringe forms. Its inaugural year showcases more than 40 musicians — country or other pop musicians with country-inspired sets — in what it calls “the world’s largest outdoor honky-tonk” on April 15 and 16, 2023, at San Gabriel Park. (Curated by C3 Presents, this festival will probably carry some similarities to Austin City Limits Festival.)
The two inaugural headliners, Zach Bryan and Tyler Childers, have much in common: the solo artists, despite leaning toward folksy or straight-up country instrumentation, are above all singer-songwriters with similarly textured, gentle voices. Both favor an earnest, introspective tone, although Childers sinks more into a Southern twang and more upbeat songwriting, while Bryan stays more mellow and retains more of an edge when the tempo picks up.
Across the three stages, more acts stand out for their longtime country credentials or genre-bending surprise factor:
- Wynonna Judd: The younger half of mother-daughter-duo The Judds, Wyononna Judd, has spent plenty of time at the top of Billboard charts over her nearly 40-year career. In the 2020s, she’s still releasing music in a variety of very country styles.
- Tanya Tucker: The Texas-born former teen star Tanya Tucker went through highs and lows in her 50-year career, but ultimately made a comeback and is regarded as one of the first and most independent “outlaw” country women.
- Mavis Staples: Although Mavis Staples, formerly of the Staple Singers, is known as a gospel and rhythm and blues icon, her music displays a clear affinity with Southern traditions. Her latest album, with Levon Helm, is built on a near-constant country shuffle.
- Diplo: The pop producer and DJ Diplo has had a hand in too many projects to tie him to any one genre. In recent years he’s made a flamboyant effort at leaning into his Mississippi heritage, including a country album and lots of red-carpet cowboy hats.
- Disko Cowboy: Vinyl Ranch, a lifestyle brand led by Disko Cowboy (Dave Wrangler, who grew up in the Hill Country and is based in Dallas), brings very urban and very country images together, emphasizing independence and loyalty as a cowboy would.
A huge portion of the lineup is local, or at least from Texas. Austin-based or originated acts include Calder Allen, Charlie Robison, Kathryn Legendre, and Ben Burgess (now in Dallas). The most widely-recognizable band from nearby, Midland, comes from Dripping Springs, while Clay Walker, Madeline Edwards, Niko Moon, Paul Cauthen, and Tracy Byrd all hail from East Texas (plus Drake Milligan from Mansfield). Two other Texas-named bands, Lonestar and Little Texas, were formed in Nashville by Texans.
Tickets (starting at $99 for one day or $149 for both days) for Two Step Inn will be available on presale starting November 4 at 10 am, with a public sale two hours later, at noon. Premium tickets include amenities like seating, air conditioned restrooms, VIP bars and dining, lockers, and more. More information and ticket sales at www.twostepinn.com.